Thought Catalog
May 16, 2013

21 Things You Need To Know To Win At College

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Remember that family always come first. Always.

Let’s pretend that you have a final in your “Financial Accounting” class three days from now but tomorrow is the birthday party of your nephew, Ben. You are not ready for the final and are thinking about skipping Ben’s birthday to cram more. Always choose Ben’s birthday over studying for your final. Sing “The Itsy Bitsy Spider” like a champ and help him smash a piece of cake in his face. You can study finance later. Ben is more important.

Remember that friends come second.

Now let’s pretend that you have a ten-page paper to write. It’s due tomorrow morning and, of course, you haven’t started. But your roommate, Ellen, is hosting a comedy show at 10 PM and is nervous that no one is going to show up. Write as much as you can, run over to the comedy show at 9:45, stay the whole show, and laugh like you’ve never laughed before. If it’s between Ben’s birthday and Ellen’s comedy show, go to Ben’s birthday. Remember that both of these events are more important than your ten-page paper.

Try something that is out of your comfort zone.

Do something badass that you have never tried before. For me, it was living alone in a shanty for a summer. What is a shanty? Think cabin in the mountains with one light bulb and no running water. This experience really pushed me to my limits but made me a much stronger person. And, now, I have badass stories about making vodka watermelons, beating a squirrel out of my shanty, and skinny-dipping .

Do the dishes/take out the trash (even when it’s not your turn).

I know, I know, it’s Devin’s turn to take out the trash, not yours. Be the bigger person. If your house/apartment is starting to look like a disaster zone, just start cleaning. Your roommates will be grateful.

Remember that if you are not going to a party at least 5-6 times a semester, something is wrong.

When else in your life will you be able to go to a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles party or drunkenly spray your friends with paint? Even if you don’t drink, go and be merry.

Also remember that if you are throwing up every other weekend from partying, something is wrong.

Learn your limits. It’s hard to win at college if you are hung over all the time.

Do not become that girl/guy who is so obsessed with their boyfriend/girlfriend that they lose touch with all of their friends.

If your friends start saying “Where have you been? I feel like I never see you!” and you have a boyfriend/girlfriend, that’s a good sign that you are becoming one of those people.

Study abroad.

I have never heard someone say “I really regret that semester I was having the time of my life studying abroad Europe. I had too much fun partying in Barcelona, skiing in the Sierra Nevadas, and drinking espresso in Rome. I really should not have studied abroad.” Yes, filling out the paperwork is hard and, yes, life does goes on without you. But is it worth it? Absolutely.

Travel.

College is the perfect place to start seeing the world. Want to go to Africa? Do it. Want to go to Asia? Do it. Don’t have the money? Get a grant or scholarship to go. This semester I got a grant to research microfinance programs in Rabat, Morocco because I wanted to go to Morocco and didn’t have the money to pay for the trip. Take advantage of opportunities like this. If you can’t get a grant/scholarship, two words: road trip.

Apply for five scholarships a year.

There are so many scholarships out there that people are not applying to because they think they are under-qualified or do not have the time to apply. Try to apply through scholarships through your university or organizations you have a connection to (for example, your parents work, a group you volunteer with, or a company you work for). Then, imagine that turning in your application is like putting your name in a hat: the scholarship committee might choose your name or they might not. It’s not personal and life goes on but I bet you will be surprised how, more often than not, your name is chosen.

Forget about your high school achievements.

Unless you met Obama or started a charity that you are still working on, everything you did in high school needs to get off your resume and out of your conversations ASAP. We know that in high school you were speech and debate captain and the valedictorian and the swim captain and volunteered at the soup kitchen. That’s all great. But, we are in college now, not high school. Talking about high school makes you look immature.

Forget about your ex.

Forget about your ex-boyfriend/ex-girlfriend as quickly as possible. You do not have time to analyze all of their problems and issues. Focus on finding yourself and dealing with your own issues instead.

Work a part-time job… but not more than 20 hours a week.

Start making your own money and paying off your student loans. Once you are in college, you are too old to ask Mom and Dad for extra allowance money for your trip to Las Vegas. But, on the same note, do not let your academics/social life suffer because you are working all the time. Ideally, you will get a job where you can do your homework and work, like working the front desk at the library.

Pull a badass prank.

Pull a legendary prank on/with your friends. But remember the golden rule for pranks, if you really wouldn’t want this to happen to you, don’t do it.

Learn a foreign language.

College is the perfect time to become bilingual. Bonus points if you choose a more difficult language like Arabic, Turkish, or Chinese. Do not stop learning until you are at least proficient.

Surround yourself with friends who inspire you.

If you want to win at college, surround yourself by people who are winning. They will inspire you to achieve greatness.

Start something awesome.

Leave behind a legacy. Start something badass. Bonus points if no one else has tried to start something like it before you.

Remember that GPA is just a number.

Focus on getting the best grades you can. But, when grades are published, do not look at your GPA. The people who win at college study hard because they are truly passionate about what they are studying. Bonus points if you can completely forget the number.

Get a cool internship between your junior and senior year.

I have found that (unless you are an engineer or ridiculously well-connected), the best internship opportunities are in between the summer of your junior and senior year. For example, one of my friends, Roy, made $12,000 last summer working for an accounting firm. Even better, they paid Roy to spend a week in Honduras, teaching financial literacy to children living in poverty. When his flight back from the beach was delayed, they paid him overtime! Try to be like Roy.

Write handwritten letters to your parents, teachers, and everyone else who has helped you along the way.

Handwritten letters are a great way to say thank you for the people who helped you get where you are today. Even if it feels like you do not have much to say (which you won’t because you will be talking about how much you are winning at college), make sure to write a few letters back home every semester.

And, last but not least, find your passion.

Finding your passion is hard. Even if you don’t find this out in college, that’s ok. You can still be winning if you have a long list of the things you know are definitely not your passion. But make sure you find out what your passion is before your thirtieth birthday. TC mark

image – merra m.